IEEE Access (Jan 2017)
Flexible Radio Access Beyond 5G: A Future Projection on Waveform, Numerology, and Frame Design Principles
To address the vast variety of user requirements, applications, and channel conditions, flexibility support is strongly highlighted for 5G radio access technologies (RATs). For this purpose, usage of multiple orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) numerologies, i.e., different parameterization of OFDM-based subframes, within the same frame has been proposed in the third-generation partnership project discussions for 5G new radio. This concept will likely meet the current expectations in multiple service requirements to some extent. However, since the quantity of wireless devices, applications, and heterogeneity of user requirements will keep increasing toward the next decade, the sufficiency of the aforementioned flexibility consideration remains quite disputable for future services. Therefore, novel RATs facilitating much more flexibility are needed to address various technical challenges, e.g., power efficiency, massive connectivity, latency, spectral efficiency, robustness against channel dispersions, and so on. In this paper, we discuss the potential directions to achieve further flexibility in RATs beyond 5G, such as future releases of 5G and 6G. In this context, a framework for developing flexible waveform, numerology, and frame design strategies is proposed along with sample methods. We also discuss their potential role to handle various upper-level system issues, including the ones in orthogonal and nonorthogonal multiple accessing schemes and cellular networks. By doing so, we aim to contribute to the future vision of designing flexible RATs and to point out the possible research gaps in the related fields.